For every perceived betrayal that my body delivers to me as I age, I am consoled by the graces that come with aging – the most important and appreciated is wisdom. I’m still nowhere near that place where the patience to be quiet and wait comes naturally, but I’m working on it. At least on an intellectual level I understand it. That knowledge, however, doesn’t make the exercise any easier.
It seems that impatience and wanting it now is a condition of the times in which we live. If we can’t access that website in a click, we get frustrated. If there are two cars ahead of us at the drive-thru, we feel put out.
If God doesn’t answer our prayers on the spot, we are quick to accuse Him of not listening.
Once, I fervently asked God to give me patience. He accommodated me rather nicely. By providing seemingly endless opportunities to practice being patient! I’m not bitter; I got what I asked for. I learned that I cannot control the clock – but I can use it.
It wasn’t an easy lesson to grasp, but once I understood it, the peace that came to me was almost overwhelming. Letting go of that need for control (and by the way, a control I never had) was not just liberating, but empowering.
I’d love to say that I have a singular purpose in my faith that allows me to live my life in perfect concert with what God wants for me. Unfortunately, I regularly fall short of my potential. The human propensity to sin, whether through commission or omission, is alive and well in my heart. The thought would ordinarily depress me except that I have finally understood that God has given us a powerful gift in the sacraments of Holy Communion and Reconciliation. One nourishes our spirit, and the other heals it.
Advent, as a time for preparation, capitalizes on the graces of those two sacraments in such a profound way, that the effect is to slow us down rather than agitate us. If only we’d stop and see it.
I have wasted innumerable opportunities for peace over the years because of my impatience and failure to see the opportunity in the Advent Season. As a child, Advent didn’t even exist for me! There was Thanksgiving, and then a countdown to Christmas morning. Oh, and there was Baby Jesus in there somewhere. Sort of.
That attitude continued as I became an adult, only the problem was in reverse. I was counting the days because I had so much to do that the days would not be enough. I had gifts to buy. Food to cook. Parties to attend (obligations, not fun). A house to decorate. Oh. And Jesus was in there somewhere. Sort of. Maybe at the Christmas pageant where I had to dress up a kid as a shepherd.
I forgot – or perhaps better stated – I failed to realize the gift of Advent. Christmas morning was coming, whether or not I had picked out the right tinsel. In the end, the only thing that mattered was whether or not I was ready for the real Christmas, not just the celebration of the birth of Our Lord, but ready for his return.
The Catechism states, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ “ (524).
Advent is a time for quiet prayer and public prayer. That’s why traditions such as a family Advent wreath are powerful. We pray and reflect and get ready for Our Lord.
That’s why parish missions are popular at this time of year. We gather as a community, united in our powerful need to seek the Lord, just as the Magi did.
And that’s why we are shrouded in purple – a majestic color often misunderstood as a symbol of kingly splendor, but also used as a symbol for penance. Most of us are quick to clean the house and make it presentable for the celebration…let’s also clean house in our souls and embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I urge you to slow down during this Season of Advent, and embrace the opportunity for preparation. We can still prepare for Christmas with our shopping sprees and decorating sessions, but we should also keep in mind that these physical acts of preparation for Christmas day are not enough. We must also seek the greater spiritual preparation for the coming of Our Lord.
Get ready. You have time.
This blog posts appears as part of the Catholic New Media Advent Calendar. Follow the link to see what else is going on over at CatholicRoundup.com